Do you ever re-read your old art magazines? I confess that I do. In fact last night I was reading a Fall 2011 issue of American Artist-Plein Air Painting. In the issue I was reading there was a great article by James Gurney, on the benefits of using a limited palette, entitled Color and Light in the Landscape.
Remembering not-too-fondly my last time around with this concept, I read through his palette of suggested colors. Guess what? Alizarin crimson was not listed! Here was a list I might actually like! In fact Cad red light was not there either! Here is what he did suggest as a truly pared-down palette:
- Titanium white (PW 6)
- Ultramarine blue (PB 29)
- Yellow ochre (PY 43) (notice no cadmiums here either)
- Venetian red (PR101) (Can you see me jumping for joy because there is no Aliz crimson here?)
For additional effects such as sunsets, signs, houses and man-made structures he says that adding the following makes all the colors anyone painting the landscape would/should need.
To the above list add the following:
- Cad yellow light (PY 35)
- Pyrrole red (PR 254) (now this one is intense and almost as bad as Alizarin crimson for creeping into things)
- Burnt Sienna (P Br 7)
- Viridian (PG 18) (talk about a travelling color, this one does too!)
Now the idea of a restricted palette and the issues that it banishes from color mixing is one that truly appeals to me. Not to mention I like the idea of not carrying the whole studio along, and the lack of heavy metals from cadmiums is an idea I like as well. But alizarin crimson was not a color I enjoyed as much as one I would engage in, as in combat, say. It just was too unruly, like the kid who was hopped up on sugar. I love the soft effects that a restricted palette gets you, as you are forced to mix colors you might not have mixed before. All hues are related in a restricted palette. It’s like the completely functional family everybody wishes they came from!
I cannot recommend this article by Gurney enough. He continues with a color wheel that he calls the YURMBY wheel. In that wheel he notes the value differences as well as the chroma differences between colors. This is something that almost all color wheels ignore. It was illuminating.
But the thing that made this issue so good, was this Gurney article mated with the article from Maddine Insalaco. Her article was an approach for a quicker way to paint outdoors. It seemed counterproductive, as she mixes her colors on-site, BEFORE she starts to paint and has her palette pre-determined. By doing this, she postpones applying the paint in favor of organization. And I am ignoring the fact that she uses the dreaded A crimson and chromium green (another heavy metal paint). A direct quote from her states “Although the best and most exciting solutions in painting come from experimentation and impulse, good painting ultimately is an alliance between knowledge (intellect) and instinct (feeling).” It smacks of Ken Auster’s Intellect and Passion theory. But I am finding it more true than not. A few judicious minutes spent in organization will provide you with the stage to let fly with the emotional part of painting.
My next time out painting, I intend to try the limited palette that Gurney proposes and Maddine’s systematic approach to mixing the larger body of required colors and allow for some providential inspiration along the way. But today it’s snowing and visibility is super limited. Maybe tomorrow will be a sun on snow day. I am packing my restricted palette. And I am headed into the studio to work on an amaryllis painting that is a studio piece. Should I post it here? It’s not plein air…..who knows?
“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.” (Nadia Comaneci) – Olympic Gold Medalist